World Government Won’t Work
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe on the Impracticality of One-World Government and the Failure of Western-Style Democracy
by Anthony Wile
The Daily Bell is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
Introduction: Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, born in 1949 in Peine, West Germany, studied philosophy, sociology, economics, history and statistics at the University of the Saarland, in Saarbruecken, the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, in Frankfurt am Main, and at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. He received his doctorate (Philosophy, 1974, under Juergen Habermas) and his “Habilitation” degree (Foundations of Sociology and Economics, 1981) both from the Goethe University in Frankfurt.
In 1985 Hoppe moved to New York City to work with Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), the most prominent American student of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973). In 1986 Hoppe followed Rothbard to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he served as Professor of Economics until his retirement in 2008. After Rothbard’s death, Hoppe also served for many years as editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics and of the interdisciplinary Journal for Libertarian Studies. Hoppe is a Distinguished Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, and founder and president of the Property and Freedom Society. He currently lives with his wife Dr. Guelcin Imre, a fellow economist, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hoppe is the author of eight books – the best known of which is Democracy: The God That Failed – and more than 150 articles in books, scholarly journals and magazines of opinion. As an internationally prominent Austrian School economist and libertarian philosopher, he has lectured all over the world and his writings have been translated into more than twenty languages.
In 2006 Hoppe was awarded the Gary S. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty, and in 2009 he received the Franz Cuhel Memorial Prize from the University of Economics in Prague. At the occasion of his 60th birthday, in 2009, a Festschrift was published in his honor: Joerg Guido Huelsmann & Stephan Kinsella (eds.), Property, Freedom and Society. Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Hoppe’s personal website is www.HansHoppe.com. There the bulk of his scholarly and popular writings as well as many public lecture recordings are electronically available.
Daily Bell: Please answer these questions as our readers were not already aware of your fine work and considered opinions. Let’s jump right in. Why is democracy “The God that failed?”
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The traditional, pre-modern state-form is that of a (absolute) monarchy. The democratic movement was directed against kings and the classes of hereditary nobles. Monarchy was criticized as being incompatible with the basic principle of the “equality before the law.” It rested on privilege and was unfair and exploitative. Democracy was supposed to be the way out. In opening participation and entry into state-government to everyone on equal terms, so the advocates of democracy claimed, equality before the law would become reality and true freedom would reign. But this is all a big error.
True, under democracy everyone can become king, so to speak, not only a privileged circle of people. Thus, in a democracy no personal privileges exist. However, functional privileges and privileged functions exist. Public officials, if they act in an official capacity, are governed and protected by “public law” and thereby occupy a privileged position vis-à-vis persons acting under the mere authority of “private law.” In particular, public officials are permitted to finance or subsidize their own activities through taxes. That is, they are permitted to engage in, and live off, what in private dealings between private law subjects is prohibited and considered “theft” and “stolen loot.” Thus, privilege and legal discrimination – and the distinction between rulers and subjects – will not disappear under democracy.
Even worse: Under monarchy, the distinction between rulers and ruled is clear. I know, for instance, that I will never become king, and because of that I will tend to resist the king’s attempts to raise taxes. Under democracy, the distinction between rulers and ruled becomes blurred. The illusion can arise “that we all rule ourselves,” and the resistance against increased taxation is accordingly diminished. I might end up on the receiving end: as a tax-recipient rather than a tax-payer, and thus view taxation more favorably.
And moreover: As a hereditary monopolist, a king regards the territory and the people under his rule as his personal property and engages in the monopolistic exploitation of this “property.” Under democracy, monopoly and monopolistic exploitation do not disappear. Rather, what happens is this: instead of a king and a nobility who regard the country as their private property, a temporary and interchangeable caretaker is put in monopolistic charge of the country. The caretaker does not own the country, but as long as he is in office he is permitted to use it to his and his protégés’ advantage. He owns its current use – usufruct – but not its capital stock. This does not eliminate exploitation. To the contrary, it makes exploitation less calculating and carried out with little or no regard to the capital stock. Exploitation becomes shortsighted and capital consumption will be systematically promoted.